Road to Emmaus Sermon
One of my final sermons, on the Road to Emmaus, before I headed off to my new appointment at St. Bartholomew.
Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of all of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight O Lord our God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen. Our Gospel reading for this coming Sunday is the story of Jesus and his encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. As it appears in the lectionary, it ends with Jesus breaking the bread and realizing who Jesus is.
Reading it today, it includes the return of those two disciples to Jerusalem to meet with the eleven and those who gahter with them. The reason I did that is they really are of one piece. This is actually one story, one encounter that has two parts to it. And at the heart of it is these two bits related to food. Jesus, as he walks along with those two disciples, is interpreting the events that they’ve been telling him about.
Walking and Talking
They tell him about this Jesus, who they don’t realize is walking next to them, about his death and burial, and now there’s stories that he’s not there. So he goes through this whole explanation for Moses on earth, explaining what’s going to happen with the Messiah.
And they get to the end of the journey and, uh, Jesus, you know, I’m just going to keep going. And I said, no, no, no, I was kidding, we’ve got to come up with this. Literally, the description that’s given is they kind of drag Jesus along with them to their home for supper. It’s not just like, we’d really like to have you come. It’s almost like one-eyed rebel picking him up and carrying him along to make sure he’s at the right place.
And he comes in and they sit down to eat, and then he takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and in that moment, they suddenly recognize who it is that they’re eating it with. Then he passes. But think of it, they’re so excited about this that they get back and they journey all the way back to Jerusalem.
Jesus Isn’t Ghosting Them.
That’s like doing 10 kilometers. So basically, in their journey to their house and in their journey in the excitement, they’ve done a half marathon during the course of the day. That’s a fair bit of walking, and I don’t think it was on nice paved roads. Those would be pretty inhospitable roads. So they get back, and they’re with the disciples, and they’re explaining what’s happened, and they have, you know seen Jesus, And suddenly, Jesus appears to them, and they see him, and they’re frightened. They think they’re seeing a ghost.
And Jesus says, no, no, no. Do I look like a ghost? You see I’ve got hands, I’ve got feet, I’ve got bones, you know, do you have anything to eat? And someone finds some broiled fish and they give it to him and he eats it. And then someone’s like, oh yeah, it’s Jesus. Here we actually we get the reverse.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus is explaining all of these things. And they recognize him after he breaks the bread. Here he eats the fish, and then he gives the same explanation that he gave while he was traveling on the road to Emmaus. But this time, they’re more understanding because they realize it’s Jesus that’s talking to them.
They understand these things. Now some people when they talk about this, the breaking of the bread and eating together, it’s like, they think about the Eucharist. And certainly we think of broken bread, in the Eucharist, but notice there’s no wine in this story. This is not my body, my blood. But it does tell of bread and fish. A couple of other times, we hear of bread and fish. Most notably, the feeding of the five countenance.
Aftermath of the Road to Emmaus
Undoubtedly, as those disciples heard the story of breaking bread together and of eating fish it’s going to take them back the other meals they’ve had with Jesus. As Luke tells Jesus’s story he places a real emphasis on the number of times that Jesus eats with people. Eating with people was an important thing for Jesus. It is also really important that he is eating with all the people who he isn’t supposed to be eating with.
He’s always showing up at places that you shouldn’t be going to and sharing food with people. But most notably, it brings up this idea of the feeding of the 5,000. And the feeding of the 5,000 is one of those ideas or occasions where the vision of heaven comes to earth. and everyone fed and there’s leftovers. it’s a scene of abundance, it is a scene of new life even before the new life that comes in Christ’s resurrection. There is a foreshadowing of that new life in the way that Jesus feeds the people.
Everyone is fed. In Matthew it goes so far as 5,000 men plus women and children. Everyone is fed. There is never a shortage in God’s love and in God’s provision. We often make attempts to short-circuit that by saying, well, you get some if you deserve it, and we might give you some scraps once we’re satisfied. But Jesus, as he appears to his disciples in the self-imposed immediate aftermath of his resurrection, brings to mind, in the breaking of the bread and in the eating of the fish, this idea that the new life that is coming in Christ, that has come in Christ, and the life of abundance for everyone.
Jesus offering hospitality
Things have changed. God is calling us to live into that abundance. We’re called to be living into that change. That change will not be complete until Christ returns. But we are called to live into it now as we await Christ’s return. We are called to live out God’s gracious giving in our own homes. It certainly isn’t easy.
One of the ancient Christian traditions in reading the story of Emmaus us and whoever was with him, providing an act of hospitality to this stranger. Because at this point to them, Jesus is a stranger. But inviting him back, being insistent that he come and stay with them, it was only after they demonstrated that sense of hospitality that Jesus breaks the bread and they can recognize him. Matter of fact, Jesus asks for something to eat.